Thank goodness someone did have the guts to say what it really is
Identity Crisis, now reprinted in a single hardcover volume (from DC), was a big event in mainstream comics by any standards. Written by bestselling novelist Brad Meltzer and drawn by Rags Morales and Michael Bair, it topped the comics sales charts for most of its seven-issue run last year, largely because it was presented as Really Important — its repercussions are continuing to spill out into DC Comics’ superhero titles. (It’s a predecessor to the hugely hyped Infinite Crisis, whose first issue DC released on October 12.) But this is pretty much the worst comic book ever to be so heavily promoted. Smoothly if blandly scripted, glitzily if undistinctively drawn, Identity Crisis is a gilded turd of a book, abusing its characters’ history and meaning for cheap, sordid shock value and giving nothing in return. It typifies everything that’s wrong with contemporary comics.Amen. It's also a thinly veiled political bias, and I highly doubt that that many people would want to tune in to something that shows a cute kid vomiting after being punched in the stomach.
The plot involves a terrible secret from the Justice League of America’s past that comes to light in the wake of the shocking murder of Sue Dibny. What’s that? You don’t know who Sue Dibny is? Why, she’s the beloved wife of the Elongated Man! The wisecracking down-to-earth soul of Justice League Europe in the ’80s! . . .And enough to make one want to join Zatanna on the floor belching. That said, what's good about this article here is that this is the right way to explain things as they should be to people not familiar with comics, who do read mainstream papers, even if there's still more that could be told about, such as the way the writer of the book seems more interested in how the heroes brainwash Dr. Light, yet no interest if at all in Sue herself and the question of if Dr. Light was asking for punishment because of his crime. Although, the part about the brainwash is alluded to here:
Still confused? If you haven’t already read hundreds of mediocre superhero comics, Sue’s death will have no emotional resonance for you. If you have, seeing her raped and murdered is at best a gross misuse of everything that was interesting about the character. Identity Crisis is almost incomprehensible to readers who aren’t already intimate with its dozens of characters and their relationships.
Even so, it might work as an adventure story if its plot weren’t riddled with implausibilities. Among other things, you’re asked to believe that a grotesquely out-of-shape man who’s just been shot, fatally, three times in the chest can still throw a razor-edged boomerang hard enough to pierce his assailant’s heart; that a one-eyed man with a sword can stab someone who moves at the speed of light; and that a happy-go-lucky supporting character of 40 years’ standing can turn into a psychotic serial killer without anyone’s noticing. And the entire story hinges on the idea that its heroes have secretly acted nastily and venally, in their own interest, and covered it up, again and again, for years.Yep, that's the problem with it. It's joyless, crude to the core, and more interested in cruelty than anything else.
It’s possible to make a great story by bringing out a familiar character’s dark side as long as you seem to be raising the stakes rather than changing the rules. But Meltzer’s story is just a mess. There’s no pleasure in it, no sense of adventure or triumph or fun — only violence, betrayal, and witless flailing. It’s relentlessly grim and melodramatic, from Superman’s shedding a tear on the original cover of the first issue to the dribbling pathos of its ending.
Near the end, Meltzer quotes Arthur Miller: "An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted." His intention here seems to hammer the final coffin nails (or razor-sharp boomerangs) into the Silver Age of superhero comics, the era when troubled and flawed characters could nonetheless be relied upon to do right in a crisis, when making characters believable and consistent counted for more than horrifying jolts. But what Identity Crisis is presenting as exhausted illusions are the idea of heroism itself — the ethical compass that orients superhero comics — and the notion that major comics stories should speak to an audience greater than long-devoted fanatics. Without those principles, the superhero genre is itself exhausted of everything but an endless loop of brightly colored brutality.Which brings us to a most interesting question: did DC ever actually intend to even so much as whisper to a wider audience? Seeing how none of this hype about newcomers to comics seemed to revolve around Infinite Crisis, I think that puts the lie to any claims that newcomers were picking up Identity Crisis in droves, and shows that in truth, the majority of buyers were really only the veteran audience.
Although it's possible that, any newcomers who were stung by this trash may have abandoned it in such large quantites, left with a really bad impression of what comics are all about, that in the end, not many were left to give Infinite Crisis as big an audience.